The stop for the bus taking students from his neighborhood to Lyons Township High School is just a block away from Gadiminas Navickas’ home. But the 17-year-old junior walks to and from school while his neighbors ride, because he lives within 1.5 miles of the school.
Navickas’ father, Darius, is none too happy with the situation and wants it changed. So far, he hasn’t had any luck getting his son on the bus to and from school. Now that the weather is getting cold, he especially doesn’t like the fact that his son, who has gym during the final period of the day, has been walking home wet after class in the swimming pool.
“I care about his health,” Mr. Navickas said.
Navickas lives in the 4400 block of DuBois Boulevard, within steps of the bus stop at the corner of Raymond and Gerritsen in Brookfield. His neighbor, Daiva Backus, lives even closer in the 4400 block of Deyo Avenue. Yet, when her daughter, a sophomore this year at the south campus, becomes a junior next year, she’ll be walking to school, too.
“My daughter can’t carry her backpack now,” said Backus. “I’m worried for next year.”
It also irks Backus that while her property taxes keep going up, her daughter will be shut out of the bus route next year.
“We are paying good taxes also,” Backus said. “Most of it goes to that high school. I think that’s not right.”
Navickas says he’s talked to several officials in the administration at LT but has gotten nowhere. Therese Nelson, associate principal of LT’s south campus, who is in charge of transportation for the district says she’s sympathetic and is trying to help.
The trouble is that the buses serving Brookfield are packed and the district won’t create another route for just one or two students who live within the 1.5-mile radius from the campus. Just a handful of Brookfield blocks south of Ogden Avenue are refused the school’s bus service.
While in other areas of the far-flung district there’s room on the buses for those who live within 1.5 miles of a particular campus, Brookfield’s buses are packed, Nelson said.
“We won’t create a new stop; the students have to go to an existing stop,” Nelson said.
“Brookfield happens to be very loaded and we’ve made numerous changes” to the routes to accommodate Brookfield students, she said.
Six school buses serve Brookfield, the southern half of which lies within the District 204 boundaries. According to Nelson, 473 students from Brookfield are eligible for the free bus service mandated by the state for anyone who lives more than 1.5 miles from school.
With a limit of 47 students per bus, there’s room for just 282 students on those buses. Not all of the eligible students request bus service. Some are dropped off, some may drive or carpool with friends. Others have extracurricular activities that don’t mesh with bus schedules.
Still, it’s been difficult to fit students who are eligible onto the buses much less those within the 1.5-mile radius, Nelson said.
“We’re trying to work on it, but it’s just tough,” Nelson said.
Brookfield residents who live within 1.5 miles of the school’s north campus in LaGrange can be frustrated, because every student who lives within the district’s boundaries in Brookfield qualifies for free busing to the south campus for his freshman and sophomore years.
In addition, Navickas said that his older son, who graduated from LT two years ago never had a problem taking the bus to the north campus. Actually, Navickas’ younger son also had little problem taking the bus to school for the first quarter. He would wait at the bus stop and just get on when it came.
However, now that the colder weather has kicked in the buses are full and bus drivers checking IDs have weeded out those, like Navickas, who don’t qualify. Mr. Navickas said he asked if something could be done to accommodate his son, but was told no.
“They said, ‘If I do something exclusive for your son, people will be waiting in lines to do the same thing,'” he said.
Navickas said that he feels as if LT simply isn’t responsive to the concerns of Brookfield residents in the district.
“This corner of Brookfield, I don’t know, it’s like we’re some kind of different state,” he said.